ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Federal prosecutors were supposed to outline their case against Theodore Kacyzinski today but opening arguments were never delivered. We get more on the developments in Sacramento from David Jackson, San Francisco Bureau Chief for Time Magazine. What happened in the courtroom today, David?
DAVID JACKSON, Time Magazine: It was quite dramatic, Elizabeth. Ted Kacyzinski walked in the courtroom a couple of minutes before 8 AM. He made a quick sweep of the courtroom with his eyes, but he definitely did not look at his mother and his brother, who were sitting in the front row--the first time they'd been in the same room in at least 10 years. He sat down, leaned forward on his elbows, and watched as the judge came in. The family, I should point out, seemed visibly shaken by the lack of acknowledgment from Ted. When the judge came in, the judge was just about to speak, when Ted suddenly surprised everyone by saying that he had a statement he wanted to make. At that point the judge took a long moment to decide what he should do, and he decided that this matter would be better solved in his chambers, at which point the defense team, including Kacyzinski, went into the judge's chambers.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And do you have any idea what happened there?
DAVID JACKSON: We can guess what's going on there only from a few vague statements that have been made by the defense attorneys. The proceedings so far have been secret and, in fact, even the prosecutors are asking what's going on. What we know for sure is that it regards the defendant's concerns over his representation. And what that means is his objections to the defense arguing a mental illness defense. He does not like this; he convinced them to drop it in the guilt portion of the trial just a week ago. They had intended to argue it in the penalty phase once a conviction occurred. And now it seems he's objecting to it being raised even then, which would be really a last gasp effort by the defense to save his life.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Let's back up a minute. Describe what this dispute is about exactly.
DAVID JACKSON: The dispute is about what the defense can put up against this mountain of evidence that the prosecution is going to throw against them. The case is very strongly against Ted Kacyzinski. They have a couple of options. They can obviously try to argue that the government has got the wrong man. And that seems to be a very much a long shot effort here because of the evidence against him. It's so complete; the journals he kept, the diaries, the written admissions, in effect, to all these bombings. So what they have then is possibly an insanity type defense. Now, to argue insanity, legally you have to prove that you either don't know what you're doing, or you're not able to understand what's going on. He was--his journals argue against that defense. They clearly show a man that knows what he was doing was wrong and knew what he was doing. And finally, there's a mental defect defense, which is a defense where they could argue that his mental state was so deranged that he was not able to form the intent required by the law to be found guilty of premeditated crimes. This is what the defense was trying to argue, but Ted's against it. Ted resists any description of him, any portrayal of him as mentally ill. And the defense attorneys have said that this is characteristic of people with paranoid schizophrenia.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And there was a December 19th closed-door meeting with just the judge, the defense, and Theodore Kacyzinski. Is that apparently--some transcripts were released by the judge from that. What happened in that meeting? Was it the same dispute?
DAVID JACKSON: Nothing really substantive has been released from those meetings, but what we do know is that this was the beginning of what's been described as the defendant's concerns about his representation. And that really is sort of legal language for he doesn't like the trial strategy that these lawyers are preparing for him.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Excuse me for interrupting. Has he asked to defend himself?
DAVID JACKSON: Yes. Our understanding is that he wants to defend himself, and the law gives a defendant the right to represent himself.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: David, how does this relate to the announcement also that Attorney General Janet Reno's--there's a committee that she has, which I'd also like to explain what the committee is, refused Kacyzinski's demand that he--or his agreement to plead guilty if they'd give him life imprisonment, instead of going for the death penalty--how does all this relate to that? And, first, start with what is the attorney general's committee.
DAVID JACKSON: This is a committee that would be called upon to rule on whether to accept a plea in a case like this. It's a very serious crime. It's a federal crime. It's a crime that certainly has attracted a lot of publicity. It would not leave it solely to the trial attorney to decide whether he accepts a plea in a case like this. Our understanding is that a plea was offered in which Ted Kacyzinski would offer to plead guilty to all crimes and be imprisoned but that he would escape the death penalty. The government believes that the death penalty is warranted in this case. They've rejected the plea. The plea was--I mean, they rejected the arguments too by the defense, and this is the word from Washington--no agreement on this deal.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, David, if Theodore Kacyzinski rejects his attorney's desire to put on some kind of a defense of mental incompetency or some kind of mental or insanity defense, they could still try to prepare the jury for that, couldn't they, through describing how he lived in his cabin? What's happened to that? The judge was going to rule on that.
DAVID JACKSON: That was, in fact, what they were planning on doing. They were hoping to inject the idea that a man who lived in a cabin like this, a man who lived a lifestyle he did couldn't have been mentally healthy. But this latest problem today suggests that Kacyzinski objects even to that. And that, in effect, is a mental defect defense. And the prosecution also, I should add, was objecting to that. They feel that that was--should not be legally allowed. They either make the case that this affected his intent or it didn't. And they were opposed to that as much as the defendant. So it doesn't leave much for the defense in this case yet.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And tell us what happens next. What's the schedule for then the rest of the week.
DAVID JACKSON: Well first of all, on Wednesday afternoon we're expecting to have the attorneys come back to the courtroom and discuss what kind of things they can bring up in their opening arguments. Now, one of the things the defense wanted to bring up was the item you just mentioned. They wanted to introduce statements and pictures of Ted Kacyzinski to show that he suffered from a mental illness and that the prosecution was against that they so they were going to argue on whether they could argue about whether they could bring that in. But the lead defense attorney, Quinn Denver, said this morning that it may well be a moot point by Wednesday afternoon. And what he means by that we can only assume is that if they decide to drop any hint of mental illness from their defense altogether, then they would have no need to raise these issues in their opening argument because the defendant was against it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, David Jackson, thanks for being with us.